“But by the grace of God I am what I am …” 1 Corinthians 15:10, NASB
Yesterday two comments greeted me on my FaceBook ministry page. Basically both of them asked if I was so-and-so, a convicted murderer found guilty of a heartlessly horrific crime. Oh!!! How awful to be asked such a denigrating identity question. I’d never even heard of this woman–turns out her married name differs from mine by one letter. Just one. Assuredly I’ve never been so grateful for one letter. But actually, this case of mistaken identity has gotten me thinking …
Though my pride suffers to say, I’m also an egregious sinner. Despite God’s gracious gift of salvation, despite His continual work of sanctification, I think, act, and/or speak in sinful ways every single day. The only difference between me and this criminal is the Lord Jesus Christ. Without Him, I would be “… dead in … trespasses and sins” (Ephesians 2:1). Unfortunately my flesh interferes with this acknowledgement and repeatedly builds myself up in my own mind. Immediately Romans 12:3 echoes, “For through the grace given to me I say to every man among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment …”
Subtly, surreptitiously, slyly the misconception that I’m better than someone else often regains and maintains residence within my heart. Graciously God has given me compassion for non-Christians and understanding for genuine Christians who interpret certain Scriptures differently than I do. But what honestly aggravates me is the “better-than-thou” mindset some Christians possess. I’ve witnessed churches and individuals function with this mentality–usually unknowingly–and it really bothers me. It should. But I go wrong by harboring thoughts or talking about them as if I’m better. Just. Like. That. I fall into the pride trap. “… I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate” (Rom. 7:15). Humbled I plead, “God, be merciful to me, the sinner!” (Luke 18:13).
So back to my opening thought: how awful to be asked such a denigrating identity question. Yet like a flower bursting into bloom, I realize Jesus Christ willingly acquired my identity. He took my place. He became sin. “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Cor. 5:21). The perfect Son of God–pure, blameless, and holy–humbly became the vilest, filthiest, wickedest sin imaginable. For us. In contrast to my mistaken identity, Christ unmistakably identified Himself–with me. Absolutely it’s ONLY by God’s grace that I am what I am: a new creature in Christ.
“Therefore if any man is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.” 2 Corinthians 5:17